Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza v. The Prosecutor
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||International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Tanzania
||4 February 2013
- The Prosecutor
- Justin Mugenzi
- Prosper Mugiraneza
Following the death of Hutu Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, the newly installed and Hutu dominated Interim Government adopted and implemented a policy to execute all Tutsi civilians and moderate Hutu. Some 800,000 people died in the course of the genocide.
The Appellants in the present case, Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza held the posts of Minister for Trade and Civil Service respectively in the Interim Government. They were convicted by Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment for conspiracy to commit and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Their conviction was based upon their role in the decision to remove the Tutsi prefect of Butare and their presence at the installation ceremony of the new prefect at which Interim President Sindikubwabo incited the massacre of Tutsi civilians in Butare. The Appeals Chamber overturned the decision of the Trial Chamber on the grounds that the Appellants did not possess the necessary intent for conspiracy and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. They were consequently acquitted of all charges and released.
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The Appellants, Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza, were arrested in Cameroon on 6 April 1994.
On 19 April 1999, on the orders of Judge Williams, the Appellants were transferred to the detention facility of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the judge having found that reliable and consistent information tended to show that the Appellants may have committed crimes within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction.
On 7 May 1999, the Prosecution submitted an indictment against the Appellants, Casimir Bizimungu and Jérôme-Clément Bicamumpaka.
On 12 May 1999, Judge Pillay confirmed the Indictment charging the Appellants with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, murder, extermination and rape as crimes against humanity, as well as violence to life and outrages upon personal dignity as war crimes. The trial commenced with the prosecution case on 6 November 2003.
Trial Chamber II of the ICTR rendered its judgment on 30 September 2011 convicting the Appellants of conspiracy to commit and direct and public incitement to commit genocide and sentencing each to 30 years’ imprisonment.
On 21 November 2011, the Appellants filed their respective notices of appeal.
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Legally relevant facts
Mugenzi served as the Minister of Trade and Industry in the Transitional Government from July 1993 and retained the psoition in the Interim Government from April 1994 (para. 2).
Mugiraneza served as Minister of Public Service and Professional Training in 1992 and 1993. He was appointed to the position of Minister of Civil Service in the Interim Government from April 1994 (para. 3).
On 17 April 1994, the Tutsi prefect of Butare, Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana, was removed from his post by the Interim Government, a decision with which the Appellants not only agreed but occupied a central role in bringing about (paras. 1226, 1228, 1231 of Trial judgment). The removal was intended to undermine the real and symbolic resistance posed by Habyalimana to the genocide in Butare (paras. 1237, 1246, 1250 of Trial judgment).
On 19 April 1994, the Interim Government installed Sylvain Nsabimana as prefect of Butare in the course of an installation ceremony at which both Appellants were present and Mugenzi spoke (paras. 1254-1256, 1322, Trial judgment). The tone of the speech made by Interim President Sindikubwabo reflected a clear intent to incite massacres of Tutsi civilians in Butare. It reflected the policy of the Interim Government and the presence of so many officials, including the Appellants, was intended to present a united Interim Government front in support of the speech (paras. 1367-1369 of Trial judgment). The speech marked the commencemend of a tide of massacres in Butare prefecture (para. 1376 of Trial judgment).
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Core legal questions
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- Under what circumstances may the guilt of an Accused be founded upon circumstantial evidence?
- What is the mens rea requirement for direct and public incitement to commit genocide?
Court's holding and analysis
The Trial Chamber expressly noted that the Prosecution presented no direct evidence about the decision of 17 April 1994 by the Interim Government to remove Habyalimana as prefect of Butare. In convicting the Appellants, the Trial Chamber based its findings on circumstantial evidence. The Appeals Chamber held that a conviction for conspiracy to commit genocide may be based on circumstantial evidence but, where an inference of guilt is drawn from circumstantial evidence, it must be the only reasonable inference available from the evidence (para. 88). Having examined the alternative explanations for Habyalimana’s dismissal including administrative reasons, his perceived links with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and failure to attend key meetings, the Appeals Chamber was not convinced that the sole reasonable inference from the evidence was that Habyalimana was dismissed to further the killing of Tutsis in Butare. Consequently, the Trial Chamber erred in concluding that the only reasonable inference that could be drawn from the circumstantial evidence is that the Appellants possessed the requisite mens rea for a conviction for conspiracy to commit genocide (para. 91).
The mens rea for the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide is the intent to directly and publicly incite others to commit genocide. Such intent presupposes that the perpetrator possesses the specific intent for genocide (para. 135). The Trial Chamber inferred the Appellants’ requisite intent from their participation in the decision to remove Habyalimana and their subsequent presence at the installation ceremony of the new prefect where Sindikubwabo incited the killing of Tutsis (para. 136). The Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber erred in concluding that the only reasonable inference that could be drawn from the evidence on the record was that the Appellants’ knew that Sindikubwabo’s speech would be aimed at sparking the killing of Tutsis and that their presence therefore demonstrated shared genocidal intent (para. 138).
The convictions of the Appellants were reversed and they were acquitted on all charges (para. 144).
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- E. Kagire, 'Survivors, Govt Protest String of Genocide Suspect Acquittals', The East African, 16 February 2013;
- J.C. Nsanzimana, 'ICTR’s Weak Legacy further Tarnished by Acquittals', The Rwanda Focus, 10 February 2013;
- All Africa, 'Rwanda: The Enigmatic ICTR Does it Again', 7 February 2013;
- Al Jazeera, 'Rwanda Genocide Convictions Overturned', 5 February 2013;
- The London Evening Post, 'UN Court Finds Former Rwanda Ministers not Guilty of Genocide', 5 February 2013;
- BBC News, 'Rwanda Genocide: ICTR Overturns Ex-Ministers’ Convictions', 4 February 2013;
- B. Minegar, 'Rwanda Genocide Tribunal Overturns Two Convictions', Jurist,, 4 February 2013;
- Rwandan National Public Prosecution Authority, 'Press Statement: Acquittal of Prosper Mugiraneza and Justin Mugenzi', 4 February 2013;
- Africa Review, 'Genocide Convictions of 2 Rwandan Ex-Ministers Overturned', 4 February 2013;
- 'ICTR Appeals Court to Decide Fate of Two Ex-Ministers Today',The New Times, 4 February 2013;
- All Africa, 'Rwanda: Appeals Judgment Monday for Two Former Ministers', 1 February 2013.
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